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Is Cory Booker The Anne Hathaway Of Politics?

The Senator told BuzzFeed's Another Round that he'd eat a penguin and sang some Les Mis.

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On BuzzFeed's Another Round podcast, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker had what he called "one of the toughest interviews" he's had in a long time.

Andrew Kimmel / BuzzFeed News

Senator Cory Booker in conversation with Heben Nigatu and Tracy Clayton at Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey.

Tracy Clayton and Heben Nigatu sat down with Cory Booker at Fairleigh Dickinson University for a wide-ranging conversation on July 29th, 2017. Senator Booker expounded on a variety of topics, including:

  • How conversations about criminal justice reform ignore institutional and historical racism in the policies that put it in place
  • Failing U.S. infrastructure and the resources that go into warehousing people who are vulnerable
  • How the criminal justice system treats women unfairly
  • How surprised he is to be saying that Jeff Sessions shouldn’t be fired after he worked to prevent his appointment
  • His belief that police departments need to track more data in order to deal with crime effectively
  • Anne Hathaway and the Les Mis movie, and how he is or is not the Anne Hathaway of politics
  • Taking money from Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner during his senate run in 2013
  • Whether or not America is ready for another light skinned black man talking about hope
  • The O.J. verdict
  • Whether or not he'd let his hypothetical son play football
  • Whether or not he is the father of Mindy Kaling’s future child
  • How he thinks about his appearance
  • Being hangry at a diner with Hillary Clinton
  • How society devalues parenthood and women’s work
  • Eating penguins

Listen to the full episode here:

And here's the full transcript of their conversation:

TRACY CLAYTON: So I assume that you are all here to listen to us speak to Cory Booker so you probably don't need this introduction, but we're gonna get one anyway. Before he was senator he was mayor of Newark from 2006 to 2013, and before that he was Newark City Councilor from 1998 to 2002. He studied at Oxford, and Stanford, and Yale, and he was a big time fancy great American football player. General overachiever, if you will.

HEBEN NIGATU: We'll say these things when he's also in the room.

CLAYTON: Yeah yeah yeah yeah, I would say all this to his face, I promise.

CLAYTON: And he has also handed out Hot Pockets in a time of great national distress!

NIGATU: That's true, that’s true.

CLAYTON: Ladies and gentlemen, please give a warm welcome to Senator Cory Booker!

[applause and cheering]

CLAYTON: Hiiiii.

[more applause and cheering]

NIGATU: Doo doo doo.

CLAYTON: Hi!

CORY BOOKER: Welcome to New Jersey.

NIGATU: Heyyyy.

NIGATU: Thank you.

CLAYTON: Thank you! We are happy to be here!

BOOKER: Sometimes you meet these New York people that are just like, they don't wanna cross the Hudson river.

CLAYTON: Yeah.

BOOKER: They look, it’s just very insult—

NIGATU: [laughing] We're not fancy. We're not.

BOOKER: You’re not fancy.

CLAYTON: [laughing] I also don't identify as a New Yorker.

NIGATU: True.

CLAYTON: So I'm still sweet and southern and very nice.

[laughter]

NIGATU: So we're very grateful for your time, so I just want to jump right into it if that's okay with you.

BOOKER: Yes, jump into it.

NIGATU: Yeah.

BOOKER: I'm excited, please.

NIGATU: We're going to start with criminal justice reform.

BOOKER: Sure.

NIGATU: This is a phrase that can kind of mean a lot of things to a lot of people. I'm sure Attorney General Jeff Sessions in his mind also believes in criminal justice reform.

CLAYTON: He thinks he's doing something.

[NIGATU laughs]

NIGATU: I'm curious to hear how you define that.

BOOKER: Well, I think you first have to just confess that one of the greatest, sort of, sins in our country, one of the greatest, sort of, cancers on the soul of America is this: our criminal justice system. I almost want to say so— called justice system, because we have a system that is so broken and so violates our core values as a nation, and first just think of the idea that here is this so— called “land of the free,” but one out of every four incarcerated people on the planet Earth is in the United States.

And for women it's even more dramatic: one out of every three of the incarcerated women on the planet are in the United States of America. And it's a system that treats you differently, dramatically differently, depending upon where you're from.

And I've got to see this in the forty— plus years of my life. In, in the first twenty years I'm living in relatively affluent communities — Harrington Park — my family was the first black family to move into the town, and an incredible community of folks, and went to all, you know, these colleges and universities that were predominantly, uh, again, privileged.

And you just don't see people get the same kind of justice as I've seen for the last twenty— plus years living in Newark, New Jersey. And Bryan Stevenson says it, he's this amazing death penalty defender from Alabama, who says in America we have a justice system that treats you better if you're rich and guilty than if poor and innocent. But uh, you know, friends of mine, I still remember: Senior Cut Day, four of my friends got in trouble, um, you know, breaking in, they wanted to buy beer with a fake I.D.'s, the place was closed—

NIGATU: This was high school?

BOOKER: This was high school.

NIGATU: Oooh.

BOOKER: They kicked open the door, stole some cases of beer, and, you know, they got caught, as most teenagers when we do stupid things, we get caught. Police were involved, but everything turned out okay. The right things happened. But, in Newark, or in poor neighborhoods, or places where there's not the same privilege, you get an entirely different, if you get caught, in fact, right now, as we sit here comfortably, there are kids right across the river in Rikers Island, that are, have been there, I'm not exaggerating, over a year just waiting for a trial, for crimes lesser than the one I just described to you. And so, what you see what our criminal justice system doesn't prey on the privileged and the wealthy, remember two of the last three presidents admitted to felony drug use, not just a little bit of marijuana, but serious felony drug use, which I can show you children that get that charge, and so while they're waiting for trial because their parents can't afford to bail them out, remember:

If you're poor in America, and that's what our criminal justice system feeds upon, the poor, the mentally ill, the addicted, and way disproportionately people of color. There's no different between blacks and whites for using drugs, or dealing drugs. Most Americans don't realize that — Harvard did a study, asked Americans, "picture a drug dealer." Ninety— five percent of respondents, black and white, pictured somebody black, but there's no difference at all. Young white men have a little bit higher rates of dealing drugs than young black men, according to some studies, but an African— American is almost four times more likely to be arrested for that.

So I'm just touching on just a little bit of the broken system, but literally we could spend your entire podcast just explaining to you how savagely broken and offensive this system is. I mean, take women, I just introduced a bill, um, with, uh, Senator Elizabeth Warren about, um —

[applause]

— we introduced a bill, and the other partners on the bill were Dick Durbin and Kamala Harris, and they, and just pointing out that, astonishingly what we do to women in prison is even more dramatic. Eighty-six percent of the women who we incarcerate are survivors of sexual trauma.

CLAYTON: Mm-hmm.

BOOKER: And then what we do to them, we shackle pregnant women, while they're giving birth. We put women who are predominantly mothers of children under eighteen and we put all these barriers to let them communicate with their children. We don't provide them adequate sanitary products, which is a basic health need, and so women they have these terrible moments where should scrape together their dollars to buy tampons or should they scrape together their dollars instead so they can call their child to see how they're doing?

So we have a massively broken system, when I'm saying criminal justice reform, I'm saying the reform I really want is to bring justice and common sense, 'cause everything I've described actually doesn't make us safer as a society. It drives poverty in our society, and here's the one thing that most Americans don't know: we all pay for it. Think about this. We, in this region — New York, New Jersey region — we know how horrible our infrastructure is. The delays in mass transit in New York, you all know how horrible the system—

BOOKER and NIGATU: Ugh.

NIGATU: Don't get me started, don't get me started—

BOOKER: See, New Jersey Transit riders, you guys know how broken the system, the transportation system is, [it’s] unreliable. Well, while other countries are flying past us — the speed of their trains, the efficiency of their ports, the quality of their roads and bridges — I've literally had people tell me this when I travel internationally. They don't understand. You guys have let your infrastructure crumble, except for one area where we have beat the planet Earth's history, the most profound infrastructure on the planet Earth ever build out to do what? Imprison people. Between the time I was in law school and the time I was mayor of Newark, New Jersey, we were building a new prison every ten days in this country.

CLAYTON: Heinous.

BOOKER: Trillions of our dollars to warehouse human potential, to warehouse the poor, warehouse minorities, warehouse the mentally ill, warehouse the drug addicted. Not the wealthy and privileged, but to folks who fall into those categories.

CLAYTON: Okay, um, you gave us a lot, and—

BOOKER: More than you asked for, I'm sorry.

NIGATU: No, that's okay.

BOOKER: I mean it really is, it upsets me, I can't even sit still.

CLAYTON: We know this is your thing, look, if you need to do, like some jumping jacks, I’ll give you space.

NIGATU: Yeah yeah yeah.

BOOKER: I might need to, I like, but I don't understand, like, in this time of Trump, Trump gets elected, we're all ready to protest, and I'm like—

CLAYTON: Right.

BOOKER: There was reason to protest before Donald Trump!

CLAYTON: What I think of whenever I hear somebody rattle off a list of problems with the justice system is like, can we fix it or do we start all over? Do you consider yourself a prison abolitionist?

BOOKER: I consider myself somebody that wants to bring decency, common sense, a sense of restorative justice. I'm telling you right now, why is it that the people we're imprisoning reflect not only personal failures but societal failures. We don't have a system that treats people with mental health, somehow we stigmatize folk who have, mental health challenges, so you—

CLAYTON: So can we turn this system that we have into something that does try to help or should—

BOOKER: Yes, we can.

CLAYTON: —or should we just start all over?

BOOKER: Oh, well, I don't mind pressing restart, but my point is we can do—

NIGATU: What do you mean by restorative justice?

BOOKER: So, look, I just came from one of our southern counties in New Jersey to deal with the opioid epidemic. So what is restorative justice? I sat next to a Republican prosecutor who said, "we cannot arrest our way out of this drug crisis." Now, I wish that Republicans, Democrats were saying that when the crack epidemic hit, but now—

[applause]

NIGATU: Well—

BOOKER: [laughs] But now that the opioid epidemic has hit I'm hearing the right kind of idea of restorative justice, and there were recovering drug addicts that were there thanking the prosecutor, for not just throwing them in a dark, you know, corner of our society called our prison system and then hoping that maybe they'll recover. No! The prosecutor's making incredible partnerships with hospitals, with drug treatment, that's restorative justice.

CLAYTON: Do you think this is happening with the opioid crisis because the victims are mostly white, or is this just like, maybe we're getting away overall from racist drug policies?

BOOKER: So first of all, we've got to get to a point in our country where we can have a candid and honest conversation about race and racism without people falling into defensive crouches. Because the challenge is, we have an ahistorical discussion of most of the challenges in our society without an understanding that all the way up through the sixties and seventies there was cautiously racist policies that were creating a lot of the concentrated problems we have right now. Like, in Newark, New Jersey, I'm the only senator, I think in the history of the United States, who when I go home, I go home to an inner-city. I live in a majority minority community, that's below the poverty line. The median income in my community is about fourteen thousand dollars per person.

CLAYTON: Wow.

BOOKER: And, and this community was created, engineered by housing policies that were about how can we keep minorities packed into communities, packed in poverty. I mean, from redlining to HUD decisions, and you can't escape that, nor can you escape the environmental injustices that were created due to corporate villainy, people saying, "it's okay for me to pass along the costs of my corporate enterprise to the public at large, instead of doing the right kind of waste treatment or what have you. I'm just going to pour this stuff in our oceans, poison the air, poison the soil.” So now you have inner cities that are toxic places to raise children. So you could go through from the environment, to the housing stock, housing quality, job opportunities, this isn't just happening by accident.

BOOKER: Why'd you have to start with the things that get me all hyped up to begin with?

CLAYTON: Aah, I feel like —

NIGATU: Just hop right in!

BOOKER: It's like, let's just —

CLAYTON: I feel like no matter what we ask you, you're going to be so excited, so like, just let him go —

BOOKER: But these, these are the challenges. Last weekend my brother and I just took a walk around our block, and these are the kinds of issues that just, with my neighbors, with my community, these are the kinds of issues that still come up because people feel like there's this unfinished business of our country. What can we do, how are we going to do with these, kind of, real issues?

NIGATU: I'm curious. I was reading about the investigation that the Newark Police Department found itself under from the DOJ, with regard to unfairly targeting black people—

BOOKER: And Latinos.

NIGATU: And Latinos. I'm curious how did this happen, and like, what did you learn from this experience?

CLAYTON: Because this happened while you were, like, during your term, right?

BOOKER: Yeah, I inherited a police department, became mayor in 2006, the number one issue amongst my majority minority city—

NIGATU: Right.

BOOKER: Was, "Stop the crime, Cory, stop the crime." So I came in, set up measures and dashboards for everything, threw myself into that, literally was patrolling streets with police officers at two and three o'clock in the morning. And started driving down crime. We had our first, like, month without a murder in decades, seeing a lot of, a lot of success, but people were saying, "Hey, we've got racial bias in the police department."

I'm like, "Well, I'm sure there are issues, bring 'em to me, whatever it is." But I’ve got a black mayor, a significant portion of our police departments were minorities, but they said, "No, you've got a real problem," and I said, "it can't be that bad." And then the DOJ comes in and investigates, and I had this saying when I was mayor, I said: "In God we trust, but everybody else bring me data." Opinions were nice, but let me, show me the numbers—

[laughter]

NIGATU: Yes. Right.

BOOKER: And so I was upset, "What's the DOJ doing here? We're fighting crime, I'm doing what my community wants me to do." But they showed me startling data. A lot of it I inherited from a police department that has a history — we are fifty years since the riots almost this week. And they showed me that all the data that came out in the 1960's after the riots, that there were still lingering evidence that we hadn't confronted. And so at that point I said, "Okay, I can't argue with the data they pulled," and I said, "time out," and I reached out to this incredible, great leader, Udi Ofer, head of the ACLU, and I said:

"Let's figure out ways to partnership, and do things that we can make Newark as a model, number one for collecting data. One of the biggest problems, and this is why I've introduced legislation as a senator now, what I learned in my last year or two as mayor, which was, a lot of this stuff, a lot of the data we don't have, because police departments like mine in Newark weren't collecting this data.

And so this is what worries, another thing that worries me about Jeff Sessions. I'm a guy who can say the value of the DOJ investigating police departments, giving free — ‘cause that's what they did to Newark — millions of dollars worth of research, because they came in and collected all this data, [and they] plopped themselves in our department, incredible accountability, which poor cities don't have, this is a time when New Jersey was laying off cops from Trenton to Newark. Giving us that data, giving us that access, and then setting up a system where we have accountability and now we have Jeff Sessions saying just the opposite, “we shouldn't be doing these kinds of interventions, we shouldn't be doing these kind of consent decrees.”

NIGATU: So are you worried Trump is probably going to fire him?

BOOKER: I had a conversation with a Republican senator this afternoon, it's the most awkward thing—

NIGATU: Because you don't want him there.

BOOKER: Yeah there's no one, I don't think there's anyone more than me who metaphorically threw themselves on the rails trying to stop Jeff Sessions from getting into the position.

NIGATU: Right. [laughs]

BOOKER: And I still remember on the Senate floor this week, which we spent a lot of time on the Senate floor. I had these two Senators I won't name, but they're Democrats, and they were sort of caught in this like, “I can't believe I just came back from an interview on CNN where I was saying ‘They shouldn't fire Jeff Sessions.’” And we're all sort of in this weird moment where we're like, “no,” because we think — and it's hard to read the mind of Trump — but what we think was really going on there is —

CLAYTON: Did somebody say what mind? Who said that? I heard that.

BOOKER: And so it's, it's like, it's basically like, we suspect what he's been trying to do is get rid of Jeff Sessions, put somebody else in there during a recess appointment, that would then go and fire the special prosecutor, do what he says, um, and create what I think, what would be, during our lifetime, um — even though I was a baby during Nixon's time — this would be the constitutional crisis of our generation.

NIGATU: Baby's first constitutional crisis, I believe they have that book.

BOOKER: Yes, yup. What is, what is life without a little constitutional crisis here and there?

[laughter]

And I'm a big believer. Clinton was the one who said there's nothing that's wrong with America that can't be solved with what's right with America, and I really believe that now is a test of all of our citizenship. I think our generation got very complacent, where we were just sort of luxuriating in the fruits of our democracy that were born from the struggle of generations before. And our lack of action and engagement has allowed a lot of bad things to happen, like the election President Donald Trump, and now people are realizing that “hey, I've got to be active. I can't just hope that this democracy is going to continue along and everything is going to be fine. It really is going to take my sweat and my hands at the plow as well.”

CLAYTON: Right, um, I apologize for grinning and smiling, but, I think it's it's, you get so excited!

BOOKER: This is why it's great as a podcast, people can't see me.

CLAYTON: Yes and just, yeah yeah.

BOOKER: Bouncing up and down in my chair.

CLAYTON: For everybody listening, Cory Booker is literally bouncing up and down in his chair. But often I'm very very struck by how, um—

NIGATU: Passionate.

CLAYTON: Passionate, and also earnest you are, and seem to be. And before you say anything, Heben's got a great question.

NIGATU: Are you familiar with Anne Hathaway?

BOOKER: Am I familiar with Anne Hathaway? The New Jersey born and raised—

CLAYTON: Shoutout to Jersey!

NIGATU: Yes!

BOOKER: Who, who, who, I'm telling you in Les Mis she tore up that song "On my Own."

NIGATU: Yes, yes.

CLAYTON: Mmm, mmmm.

BOOKER: You don't think she did a good version of “On My Own”?

CLAYTON: Listen, after you've seen Les Mis, like the play the play, you can't look at that movie and be happy about it, you can't.

[applause]

CLAYTON: You know, like, New Jersey aside, but listen—

BOOKER: But you know how they filmed that play, amazing! I've never seen a musical done — they didn't do this for Rent, the movie — they literally played the music, and it wasn't dubbed over! The actors were singing it.

CLAYTON: That's why the movie wasn't good. But you know what? Let's have a spirited debate about this later—

NIGATU: I lost—

CLAYTON: I will talk about Les Mis forever.

NIGATU: My point, my point—

BOOKER: I sincerely, sincerely, —I, I welled up when I heard Anne Hathaway sing that song.

CLAYTON: Oh bless your heart, you're so sweet.

BOOKER: It was so powerful! And you know I played it in the shower, “On my own”…

CLAYTON: We going to get you the soundtrack. Okay, this is such a good—

BOOKER: You and I would have a duet right now.

CLAYTON: I mean, we can, but I was thrown off by your bad musical opinions.

NIGATU: Wow, wow.

CLAYTON: But I wasn't—

BOOKER: Ouch, ouch.

NIGATU: Anyways. I did not know there would be a Les Mis fight. I feel like, okay, I feel like, Anne Hathaway, she's from Jersey, she works hard, she wins Oscars. But for some reason there's a strain of conversation around her that's like, “she's just trying too hard.” is maybe the criticism? I can't quite sum it up. Do you ever feel like you're the Anne Hathaway of politics? Like people—

BOOKER: Wow. Wow.

NIGATU: —people are like, he's from Jersey, he works hard, he's out here, you know.

BOOKER: I just heard Anne Hathaway dissed royally—

NIGATU: Noooo.

CLAYTON: Hey, listen

BOOKER: Like the Les Mis singing Anne Hathaway? That's just terrible.

CLAYTON: Okay Senator Booker, here's the thing. We are not calling you “the Anne Hathaway of politics.”

BOOKER: Okay good.

CLAYTON: The thing about—

NIGATU: I live for The Princess Diaries.

CLAYTON: No, yeah.

NIGATU: Also Anne Hathaway.

CLAYTON: I see nothing wrong with Anne Hathaway. She seems to be a good actress who's good at her job, who gets awards.

BOOKER: Okay.

CLAYTON: I would say the same thing about you as a politician, but I feel like a lot of people are like, “He's just too nice, he's too earnest, he's, something's off about how good-hearted he seems to be.” Have you heard this criticism about yourself? Is this the first time?

BOOKER: This hurts. This is the first time.

CLAYTON: But we didn't say—

BOOKER: No I'm joking, I'm joking, I'm joking. Look. I just like, you know look, what matters, what matters to me and what I advise young people all the time is to be the boldest unapologetic authentic version of yourself. It was one of our presidents who said, “everyone is born an original but sadly most die copies.”

I don't care what people say about me — critiques or whatever. I just gotta be me, and frankly, you know, parts I feel good about my life and career is when I didn't listen to people that told me “don't do that because it might not work out or might not be good for your career.” I've just kind of been myself and let the chips fall where they may. And, again, you can't be in politics without getting a lot of criticism from a lot of different corners. And so I've heard an array of criticism about myself. And yeah, I'm a little bit of a nerd, and I remember my first time sitting on, uh, I went to college with Rachel Maddow and you see your friend is doing an interview—

NIGATU: What?

BOOKER: And you know, you see one of your friends doing an interview, and she would sit you down—

CLAYTON: Wait!

BOOKER: And they call you, literally [her] first interview with me, I think it's my friend, that she's gonna be really nice to me. And she goes, "you know you're kind of a dork." And I'm just like, "Thank you, Rachel."

[laughter]

CLAYTON: What does it feel like to be criticized all the time? How do you keep yourself, like, whole and intact? Like it would make sense if, you know, you got tired and frustrated and got your feelings hurt sometimes, by the things that people said—

BOOKER: Yeah I'd be lying to you if I said that I didn't get my feelings hurt sometimes. And I don't mean if people don't like me for things that I actually stand for, things I've done, but what often frustrates me is when I get misunderstood, and people have, uh, beliefs about me that just aren't true. But again, what it is about? This is one of the reasons that I still live in that same neighborhood I'm telling you about. It’s because I — and if you go see me in the Senate I have a picture of the central ward of Newark, New Jersey — because I want to stay focused on why I got into politics in the first place. And as long as I keep that as the focus, it's not about me, it's about the bigger mission, it makes it easier just to say, “You know what, let this go, and keep on doing the best you can in service of your community.”

CLAYTON: Is there a particular instance of being misunderstood that frustrated you that stands out?

BOOKER: Oh, I can, I mean, you pick the month.

[laughter]

BOOKER: I mean, literally every month. There was a, you know, I'm very proud of the things I'm doing on health care and this health care fight. Uh, I have a bill with Bernie Sanders and Casey about lowering prescription drug costs. But just about, I think, back in January, on the day that I fought against Jeff Sessions, there was a late night non-binding vote-a-rama, not the one we just came out of, but another one where there were a bunch of bills that were all about trying to lower prescription drug costs. I signed on to another one, but didn't sign on to Bernie Sanders' bill, because it didn't have some things that I thought were really important to me. Later, Bernie agreed and did legislation with me and got massively misunderstood.

Before I got home that night I was being attacked on Twitter by people in my own party, because, "oh this guy was blocking low-cost prescription drugs coming into the country." I'm like, "how can they be saying that when, one, I believe this. Two, um, I'm fighting for it already!" And then ended up obviously writing legislation on it. But during that time my staff kept saying "this is where your heart is, you know you're right on this issue, and you can’t let your emotions and your moods — all of us have to know this. You can't let yourself by what people are saying about you, you have to keep focused on what's right in your heart.” My dad told me, before he passed away, one of his favorite things was: "there's two ways to go through life, as a thermometer, or a thermostat.” And people who go through life as a thermometer, they're the ones who let what people are saying about them, even if it's unfair criticism or jumping to conclusions, drive you up and down, hot, cold.

CLAYTON: That's me, I'm a thermometer.

BOOKER: Yeah.

[laughter]

BOOKER: But we're all called to be thermostats, which are people that, despite the temperature, despite what people are saying about you, you set your own internal mechanisms to bring light and heat and warmth into this world — no matter what's going on around you. And so yeah, there are days I fail at that, there are days I stumble and fall, there are days I feel like curling up. Um, but you guys know this, we all know this from our personal lives. Real courage, for all of us, who have fought depression or drug addiction or shame — when we have made a mistake — real courage is still, sometimes, just that voice in the morning that says, "get out of bed, put your clothes on again, get out that door and just keep fighting, keep going."

NIGATU: I want to ask you briefly about money. Okay so in 2013, I was pretty surprised to learn this, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner fundraised about 40k for your senate campaign.

BOOKER: Yes.

NIGATU: That was four years ago when none of us knew what a Jared Kushner was, unless, it was unless you, like—

CLAYTON: It was in the before, as we call it.

NIGATU: —lived in this area, maybe.

BOOKER: Yes.

NIGATU: Do you regret that relationship?

BOOKER: No! Listen, I, I wouldn't take a dime from them now, but this was a time when they were Democrats. I mean they were supporting Hillary Clinton, uh, and the Kushner family were big New Jersey Democrats and really helped to fight against Chris Christie and a lot of other folks. And so, four years ago when they were Democrats, and I'm not the only Democrat nationally that they gave money to.

NIGATU: Mm-hmm.

BOOKER: I don't think there's any problem with taking money from Democrats. Nobody could've imagined that four years later—

NIGATU: Now. Yes.

[laughter]

BOOKER: Now, um, and so four years ago, in past campaigns, I think if I need any money for my senate campaign coming up, uh four years ago, in a year's time, but this is great, another example. I literally have people saying, "I'm unfollowing you on Facebook 'cause you are in league with the Kushners, and the Trumps, and I'm like, "what planet are you from? Are you listening to the media here?" I'm leading in the Senate criticism of those folks. So that's what you — that's what folks don't seem to understand.

NIGATU: So that's just politics.

BOOKER: It's not just politics, no, to me it's more than that. It's, look, it is hard, in this horrible system we have, that is so ruled, especially thanks to Citizens United, with all of this outrageous money flowing into politics. It is hard. And so when I am going around, and I find somebody, uh, whether it's like, I can name some of these folks, 'cause these are letters that really move me, you get an incredible letter from a person who's given me five bucks, most of my contributions are small dollar contributions, writing you a letter as to why. Or that person that works, um, in, in a business, small business owner, that says, "here's a thousand dollars, because I believe in you." Now, they may go on five years from now and do some horrible stuff, but I'm sorry, right now, every senator in the Democratic party — this is legitimate conversations we have — is at a time now, that the Koch brothers could just drop twenty million dollars against you in the next election, telling lies about you on TV. Where we have lost Democratic senators that if we had right now, we would have so much of a better fight against Trump right now, but folks who have got millions of dollars poured onto them and they lost their elections by narrow hairs due to lies that were spread from dark, untraceable dollars.

I have rules, you know, on who I will not take money from: oil companies. I stopped, even though I have tens of thousands, thousands and thousands of people in New Jersey employed by pharmaceutical companies, we stopped taking money from pharmaceutical companies, from their C-suite and their executives, because I don't want my core voters to have — to give even the appearance of impropriety. But the best thing that we need to do is — and I'm telling you this is why this next election, these midterm elections are so important — why this next presidential election is so important. We're not going to be able to change campaign finance laws unless we, unless Democrats get control of the Senate, control of the House, or can control the Presidency and appoint Supreme Court Justices that will actually overturn horrific decisions like Citizens United.

CLAYTON: Are y'all still friends?

BOOKER: No, I mean, I haven't had a conversation with Ivanka or Jared really since the, since well before the election.

CLAYTON: What's the inside jokes, what's the last meme she sent?

BOOKER: No.

CLAYTON: Nothing, none of that?

BOOKER: I passed them once at a cocktail party, but I'm not beyond working with people on the other side of the aisle. I have people that say the most vile things about Paul Ryan or Mitch McConnell. What they're trying to do is hurt my country, my state, with things like that health care bill, but I'm never going to let them drive me to hate them.

And one of the funniest things to happen this week is John McCain comes onto the Senate floor — the man has brain cancer — comes onto the Senate floor, and we the Democrats all knew what he was going to do, that he was coming onto the Senate floor. We knew in the beginning he was going to vote on the motion to proceed to the bill — fancy language that says he was going to advance the bill — that would allow it to be debated on, and, and, a whole bunch of us, from Chuck Schumer to Bernie Sanders, all of us went over to John McCain, hugged him. Some of them were okay hugs, I gave him a real hug.

[laughter]

Um, I talked to him today, checking in on him, didn't mention politics at all—

CLAYTON: Just like, “How you feeling, how you doing?”

BOOKER: If I'm losing my ability to always see the humanity, even when the world might say that you surrendered your humanity. I think, I don't ever want to be that person. That's just who I am, and I'm never going to retreat from that. I still remember my college football — not my college football — my high school football. I was vicious between the whistles, but after that whistle I remember my coach telling me "why would you help that guy off the ground, that you just knocked down and buried on the ground?" And I said, "because between the whistles, it's all out war. But afterwards, I don't surrender my humanity.

BOOKER: But there are days I slip and say bad things about folks, there are days I don't live up to my own values, I stumble, I fall, but we gotta get up and keep trying to be the change we want to see.

CLAYTON: Mm-hmm.

NIGATU: Do you feel like America—

[applause]

Do you feel like America is ready for another light-skinned black man telling them about hope?

[laughter]

CLAYTON: That's a great question, Heben. That's a good question.

[applause]

BOOKER: Um, I, I hope that uh. Look, one of my greatest heroes, living legend, is a guy named John Lewis, who was the only surviving person that spoke on the March on Washington. He was considered the bravest person in the Civil Rights movement, he was beaten, uh, billy-clubbed; just like a guy who was just like, just always doing things that endangered his life. He was the guy that led the march from Selma to Montgomery, over the Edmund Pettus bridge. He's one of the most gentle giants I've ever met—

NIGATU: He also has a fire graphic novel. It's amazing.

BOOKER: It's awesome, I'm glad you've seen that.

CLAYTON: He has a graphic novel?

NIGATU: I love it.

BOOKER: Yeah. Yes. Yes.

CLAYTON: Holy shit.

BOOKER: And he's a humble hero. And, you know, he has this idea. If you think about the labor movement in America, if you think about, I mean Frederick Douglass right before he died: what was the last meeting he went to? It was a suffrage movement, um, civil rights movement, all these movements were multi-cultural, multi-racial. Most movements for justice in the country were people from different backgrounds coming together. But he talks about the conscience of this country, that, that in many ways African-Americans have always had to call out to this country to live up to its values and its ideals. I love the African-American tradition in this country because it, from the very beginning, it has always been calling on this nation, in a hopeful manner, to live up to its unfulfilled promises. Calling on this country not to treat black people better, but to be better for all of its people.

And so I hope that I can be, not just another American, but coming from a particular ethnic and cultural tradition, that I can bring the best of our traditions not only to Washington, but I want to be a voice of hope. I want to be a prisoner of hope. An agent of hope.

Miss Virginia Jones, she was our tenant president for forty years, from the time that the buildings were built, she was the tenant president of those buildings. Her son was murdered in the lobby of the building in which I lived, she could've gone on and left at that time, she and I were two of the higher net-worth earners there, we could've lived other places, but she never left. And I remember on a day that I was shattered — and by the way if this country hasn't broken your heart, you do not love this country enough.

Because there is so much in this country that we should, that should hurt us, should be anguishing, should be painful, should break our hearts. And on a day that I had been with a child bleeding to death from a gunshot wound, and I went home, I was done. I was literally giving up. I thought — this country, I had so much anger to this country. At that moment I knew. Everybody could tell you who Jonbenet Ramsey was, or Natalee Holloway, and I just saw another black boy die, that I knew, that I knew that would never make the headline, would never be remembered, and I just felt filled so full of rage. That we swear the oath of this country, we literally put our hands over our heart, and say, "we're going to be a country with liberty and justice for all.” And for me, at that point, I’d just lost a mayoral election, it was years until another one, and I just felt like, "where are the people that are going to live those words?" And I was angry at everybody, angry at the world, heartbroken, in traumatic shock, and Miss Jones catches me the next morning, when I'm, um, just feeling like I'm a hundred feet underwater. It's just she and I in the courtyard between these two projects, this small elderly, tough-as-nails, African-American woman, who would cuss you up and down if she saw you doing something wrong, and I, and I'd been in the direction of those cusses sometimes—

[laughter]

She sees me in the courtyard standing there, and she does exactly what I needed. She doesn't even say a word, all she does is open her arms, and like a little kid I ran to her. This woman hugs me and holds me and rubs my back, and she keeps saying two things over and over again, that just soothed me, and I've said for years since. Toughest days as mayor, toughest days as senator, and all she said, two words, over and over again: "Stay faithful, stay faithful, stay faithful." And her lesson to me, God rest her soul, was people who think hope exists in the abstract, "oh I'm just hope-y today." I don't have any patience for those kind of folk. Hope is a response. It is a conviction.

You can't have great hope unless you have great despair. Hope is saying that despair will never have the last word, no matter how vicious and evil things get. Hope is saying, "I still believe” And I will be an agent of hope, a fighter of hope, I will bleed for hope, I will, I will conjure hope out of nothingness. So I don't care how bad things get, in the morning if I can summon the strength at night, before I go to bed, and every moment during the day, I want to be someone that is living hope — not preaching it, but working it — every single day trying to make this nation more hopeful, for myself and for everyone who lives in it.

CLAYTON: Well the doors of the church are open. Let's get a collection plate! Pass it on 'round.

[applause]

CLAYTON: Well Senator Booker, you have survived the tough portion of the day, how you feeling?

BOOKER: Oh my god, do we have a—I'm feeling...this was tougher than I thought!

CLAYTON: Was it really?

BOOKER: Oh my God! I listen to your podcast, you know.

CLAYTON: We seem so nice.

[laughter]

BOOKER: And drinking, I'm just like, this is like, I'm gonna ease on up here.

CLAYTON: Well this is where that part happens.

BOOKER: Okay, thank God.

CLAYTON: Okay so this is a segment that we like to call "Pew pew pew." Yes, y'all know, y'all know what's up!

BOOKER: There are, ha—

CLAYTON: Yes!

BOOKER: There are like—

NIGATU: It is rapid fire.

BOOKER: I like that.

NIGATU: It's always the idea.

BOOKER: I, some friends of the show in here, yeah—

CLAYTON: A few!

NIGATU: Yeah!

CLAYTON: Yeah. We—

NIGATU: Awww.

CLAYTON: We did not pay any of these people to do this—

NIGATU: Y'all so sweet.

BOOKER: Wow.

NIGATU: Y'all so cute.

CLAYTON: Hey girl hey!

[laughter]

CLAYTON: Okay, so. This is our rapid fire question segment, which gets harder for me to say —

NIGATU: It's a tongue-twister.

CLAYTON: Every time I say it. Who knows, who knows what these questions are going to be about?

NIGATU: Dun dun dunhhhh.

CLAYTON: I don't know.

BOOKER: All right.

CLAYTON: Question number one: If you were to take a one day vacation from being vegan, what would you eat?

NIGATU: Oooh.

BOOKER: Wow.

CLAYTON: Okay, and, I heard that you like to say penguins for this answer. Don't say penguins, 'cause I will physically fight you over penguins.

[laughter]

BOOKER: But can I, can I give you a good argument why we should not like penguins?

CLAYTON: [sighing] I already know why. It's because March of the Penguins beat out your documentary, right?

BOOKER: Yes!

CLAYTON: Well.

[laughter]

CLAYTON: I'm sorry that that happened, but this, penguins are not—

NIGATU: Tracy loves penguins.

CLAYTON: I—

NIGATU: She will throw down for some penguins.

BOOKER: But see, but this is the thing, you didn't watch Street Fight, the documentary on—

CLAYTON: You don't know what I watched!

BOOKER: On, I—

NIGATU: She didn’t watch it.

CLAYTON: I didn't watch it.

NIGATU: She didn’t watch it.

CLAYTON: I didn't.

BOOKER: You didn't watch it.

CLAYTON: I did see March of the Penguins though.

BOOKER: Eighty-seven minutes long!

CLAYTON: Solid movie.

BOOKER: Eighty-seven minutes on Netflix, and then, you know what the two things I don't like? And I told this man this. I got up in his face when he came to my office to advocate for something really beautiful, really wonderful, but if you get Morgan Freeman to narrate my morning routine—

[laughter]

CLAYTON: That's what you should have done!

NIGATU: Yah.

BOOKER: It would, it would win an Oscar. I'd be like—

NIGATU: Compelling. It's so compelling.

BOOKER: It’d be like, [Morgan Freeman imitation] "Cory Booker, shaving his face." [laughs] Oscar! [laughs]. So I get so angry, and these penguins, they're not cute.

CLAYTON: Tread lightly, Cory, you know what?

BOOKER: But they can't fly!

CLAYTON: You know what, you know what—

NIGATU: Next question.

BOOKER: How could you be a bird—

CLAYTON: Next question, next question, no—

BOOKER: And you can't fly. How could you be a bird and you can't fly?

CLAYTON: Next question, nope. Hey.

BOOKER: I don't understand that.

CLAYTON: Hey, you are, thin ice. The thinnest of ice. Um—

BOOKER: Well you know the penguins' habitat getting thin.

NIGATU: Unintended.

[laughter]

BOOKER: That ice is getting thin up there.

CLAYTON: Oh I get it, thin ice. Penguins.

[laughter]

NIGATU: Tracy made a funny.

CLAYTON: I didn't even mean to! Um, okay, I forgive you for your penguin thing.

BOOKER: I bet they taste just like chicken.

CLAYTON: Uh, you know what?

[laughter]

NIGATU: Fightin' words. They look like they don't taste good!

CLAYTON: They do not. I have never eat one, but I've done research — we'll talk about this later. I'm telling you, I've got penguin feelings that go very very deep.

BOOKER: I can see this.

CLAYTON: Cory Booker, where were you when the O.J. verdict was read, back in '94?

BOOKER: Wow.

NIGATU: I feel like we're in O.J. renaissance right now.

CLAYTON: Yeah, O.J.'s having a moment.

BOOKER: Wow. So, there's a lot of moments in American history where I could tell you exactly where I was.

CLAYTON: Uh-huh.

BOOKER: Like when the space shuttle exploded, that tragic moment, I know exactly where I was. But, I was in law school during this trial—

NIGATU: Oh snap.

BOOKER: Yes.

NIGATU: So was Johnny Cochran your idol?

[laughter]

CLAYTON: Or were you more of a Darden type of guy?

NIGATU: Yeah yeah yeah. Team Darden.

[laughter]

BOOKER: You guys are just bad.

[laughter]

BOOKER: There's a little, you guys, there's a little edge to you.

CLAYTON: Oh yeah you know!

BOOKER: What month was it? 'Cause I was basically, um—

CLAYTON: What month was it?

BOOKER: Yeah, 'cause I can't remember what month it came out —

CLAYTON: Um—

BOOKER: I remember my grandfather was just like “watch.” He knew more about— I was going into law school and he knew more about the law than I did just from watching the O.J. trials, and was like lecturing me in civil procedure. And I was like, "wait 'till I get to class, Granddad, and actually learn about this.”

CLAYTON: Okay, so if you don't remember where you were, do you remember how you felt? Like, do, were you like, "yay, the Juice is loose, set free!"

NIGATU: [laughing] "The Juice is loose!"

CLAYTON: Or were you like, "he did it, lock him up!".

BOOKER: U —

CLAYTON: 'Cause that's what my mama was like. She was like, "he did it."

BOOKER: Yeah, so I was very much like, “the man did it.” I think O.J. was guilty. But obviously the justice system worked. I was actually using this as a moment talking to some folks down in the Senate about — they need to understand something — that the reason why African-Americans were celebrating was because, you know, they have a close-up experience with people getting jerked over—

CLAYTON: And we finally won!

BOOKER: And treated—

CLAYTON: We were like—

BOOKER: By the justice system—

CLAYTON: Yeah!

BOOKER: So people felt like, here are hundreds and hundreds and thousands and thousands of African-Americans, all of us, including me, have stories about being followed in malls, and pulled over by police, my car surrounded by cops, accused of stealing the car that you were driving — all of us had these experiences and this was sort of like, letting off that steam of celebrating, that here's an African-American guy that got over in the system. And so I understood that feeling of celebration, but I really believe the man was guilty.

CLAYTON: Yeah you was like, "it's too much blood." How you drip blood everywhere?

BOOKER: Yeah, but I, but you know, I do think there was a miscarriage of justice in Nevada, that he was, that he got that long sentence, as a like, people were like, trying to make up for something that happened before—

CLAYTON: Uh-huh.

BOOKER: And that to me, bothered me, in and of itself.

CLAYTON: Okay, so you were, you were happy to hear that he's been paroled.

BOOKER: He, he, there was no legal justification for him not to be paroled.

CLAYTON: Okay, okay.

NIGATU: What is the wildest rumor or like piece of gossip you've heard about yourself? Is it that you are the father of Mindy Kaling's baby?

[laughter]

CLAYTON: Also, also—

NIGATU: Can you confirm or deny—

CLAYTON: Also is it just gossip? Is there some truth to this story?

BOOKER: Next question.

[laughter]

NIGATU: Well alrighty then.

BOOKER: All right.

NIGATU: Did you at least text her, "congrats"?

BOOKER: Next question.

NIGATU: All right. I had to try.

CLAYTON: So you mentioned sports not too long ago.

BOOKER: Yes.

CLAYTON: Um, rumor, has it—

NIGATU: [laughing] "Rumor has it."

CLAYTON: That you were quite the revered, um, ath— ath— athletesman, that's not a word, is it?

CB: [laughing] No.

CLAYTON: You were, you played football. I tried to be fancy, and I—

BOOKER: The older I get the better I was.

CLAYTON: Ahh. So, since you were playing football, there's been a lot of information and a lot of research done on how dangerous—

BOOKER: Oh this is a very good question, I get this a lot.

CLAYTON: Yeah. So like the whole concussion, CTE type thing.

BOOKER: Yes.

CLAYTON: If you knew then what you know now, would you yourself play, and, should you have a son, and he wanted to play —

NIGATU: With Mindy Kaling.

CLAYTON: She said that part, I didn't.

NIGATU: Should you have a potential son.

CLAYTON: If you were counseling a male child, who wanted to play football, would you recommend he do it, with the risks?

BOOKER: I owe so much to that sport, and especially to my teammates in high school, and college, and my high school coaches. I always joke that I got into Stanford because of a 4.0, 1600: 4.0 yards per carry, sixteen hundred receiving yards.

[laughter]

BOOKER: Um—

CLAYTON: Sports joke, I get it! That's funny.

BOOKER: Oh thank you very much. Um, so, I, so much of who I am today is built on that foundation and when I was at the Brick Towers reunion, right before here, there were some young kids who were being coached in Pop Warner football, and I think that's great. I think that the kind of concussions that we're talking about, the kind of force that people are hitting with, that's, that's at the later levels where you get these athletes now that are so much stronger and faster than my generation were.

So, I would let my child play football. Um, I think I would worry about them if they had the same trajectory as I did. I stood on the sidelines of, um, a Stanford football game recently and I'm like, "you guys are defying physics." You know, masses that large should not move that quickly, and the collisions, I was like, "woah." So I think that we have a lot of research to do to see if there's anything we can do to minimize the kind of damages, I give a lot of credit to referees now that will call people out for things like spearing and others. But, uh I think I would let my child play.

CLAYTON: Mmkay, mmkay.

BOOKER: This is really my most difficult interview I've had in a long —

CLAYTON: Is it?

BOOKER: Time.

CLAYTON: What? Is it because we don’t get sports and you won’t tell us the real gossip? [laugh] I feel like you’re in control of most of this. Just tell us the juice!

BOOKER: That wasn’t an O.J. joke. Flashin’ back to O.J.!

CLAYTON: Uh, yeah it was, I did that on purpose.

[laughter]

BOOKER: All right.

NIGATU: Uh, most of the people we've had on the show are women. We just don't talk to that many men, honestly. There are so many more interesting women! My list of interesting women that I want to talk to is so much longer.

BOOKER: I find women far more interesting than men.

NIGATU: Thank you.

CLAYTON: Also men get to, men are always talking all the time. We're like, we've got a microphone, let's give it to someone—

BOOKER: Did you guys watch the Senate floor this week? No honestly, I'm like, like John McCain gets the hero treatment 'cause he voted against—

NIGATU: That's what I'm saying!

BOOKER: And, and you had these two other women that were like, from the beginning —

[applause]

BOOKER: You know, Collins and Murkowski, who are not being championed. And then you had another moment where one of the most amazing senators, she's the only immigrant, non native-born United States senator, a woman named Mazie Hirono from Hawaii. [She’s got] stage 4 cancer, you know, and she's coming out of her treatment to vote and nobody really knows that but everybody knows John McCain from brain cancer. So, so I'm with you on, uh, we still have a society, a nation, that's not, that seems to give men a lot more credit and a lot more attention. Here we are in New Jersey, there are, uh, let's see, fourteen people that represent New Jersey in Congress between the House members and the senators. It used to be an all-male delegation, and now we have one — as if that's some great accomplishment — amazing African-American woman, [the] first ever from Congress, Bonnie Watson Coleman—

[applause]

So we still have a long way to go until we're getting, kind of, parity, so I'm not gonna resist this, sort of, that I'm one of the few men you've allowed.

CLAYTON: But that's an honor though. You're like number four or five.

NIGATU: So because we talk to mostly women, we invariably ask questions about appearance and like, public appearance, and how women think about that, because they just have to.

BOOKER: Yes.

NIGATU: And I'm curious—

BOOKER: And I saw this when Obama and Clinton had the first primary—

NIGATU: Right, I mean that whole election cycle—

BOOKER: It was outrageous to me. I was a big Obama supporter, but I just couldn't, nobody was talking about his weight, nobody was talking about what he wore, nobody was talking about his hair—

CLAYTON: I was!

[laughter]

NIGATU: Tracy McGee!

CLAYTON: I'm sorry, he is a handsome man.

NIGATU: But I do kind of want to ask you about that, I'm curious how you think about your appearance. Do you have a stylist? Do you worry about your weight? Like, are you worried about the colors you're wearing on the Senate floor? How do you think your appearance has affected your career? Can men have it all?

BOOKER: No, but I—

NIGATU: [laughing] I'm just gonna keep going.

BOOKER: No it is definitely male privilege that I don't have to think about those things often. I definitely have female friends in my life, uh, that tell me I need to get some style. Not just a stylist, like, get some style, but, no, I really don't feel like I'm being judged that much on what I wear. I really don't. And, but yet in hearing conversation all the time where women are held to a much different standard, women in elected office are, and I think — I think it's really problematic.

However the other question about weight. Absolutely! I'm somebody that often thinks about what I'm eating and my diet and so on and so forth and I'm one of those people that my weight goes up and down quite a bit, I think about food a lot. So yeah.

Um, you know I remember, this is off-topic, but I was a teenager, probably nineteen, maybe twenty years old, and I started working on a crisis hotline at Stanford, we took serious calls, from suicide calls, uh, we had people that were doing interventions for, um, women who were being physically assaulted by their partners. So for me, imagine at twenty years old, um, it was almost like this veil of my privilege was lifted off of me when I started, when I would see — I mean it was very dramatic to me. I mean number one I would see on weekend nights, we would get rape calls, like, constantly. Sexual assault calls constantly. But then, from eating disorders to just people calling up, fed up with the environment, and they would often call and talk to me for a few minutes, and say, "do you have a female counselor I can talk to?"

There are so many, all of us are struggling with things, and they often aren't brought out into the environment and brought out into the air. I often say, that we indulge in a type of privilege, that we're just so unconscious to the struggles of other people that are different. And I think that's very problematic. And even when we're made aware of a problem, the most insidious type of privilege is when you know there's a serious problem going on, but it doesn't affect you personally, and so you don't do that much about it. And so I think that there's a real problem with the gender dynamics in our country still. It's still appalling to me that the average woman, that a woman makes about eighty-some cents for every dollar that a man makes.

I've had companies come to me. I remember, this one, I can out the company, I think it was Salesforce.com, that didn't really believe that was going on in their company. And then they did the analysis, they pulled the data — just like happened to me with our police department — and the man was like, "Oh my god, we are not paying women who are doing similar or the same jobs." And this was kind of a woke man that tried to do that in his company. But it goes on throughout our society. Then other things. We force women into circumstances, we say we love children in this country, but I still remember the moment in the campaign that I, that I made the mistake of saying it this way to a reporter: "the moment on the campaign when I feel in love with Hilary Clinton," um—

CLAYTON: Oooh, back to gossip.

[laughter]

BOOKER: Sounds very exciting. But um, you know, I was supporting Secretary Clinton for very intellectual reasons, you know, I'd been talking to her about policy, but I didn't really know her, 'cause I was an Obama person.

So I'm on the campaign trail with her in Iowa, and I'm standing at a diner, uh, sitting in a diner with her, uh, and, the server comes over. I'm one of these folks who, there's a great, great, saying that I love by Dave Barry, who says "someone who's nice to you, but not nice to the waiter, is not a very nice person." And, and, so I'm like eager to see Secretary Clinton, in a down moment, with the server that walks over to her. Is she just one of those people that smiles, and waves, and shakes everybody's hand—

CLAYTON: She's a great politician.

BOOKER: But now when we're hangry—

[laughter]

BOOKER: I'm like, how is she gonna be, she and I were hangry, like long day tired, at a diner, and the server comes over, and we just start talking to the server. And you just start hearing what this woman was dealing with. Raising children, working a full-time job, trying to catch extra shifts. And Secretary Clinton says, "Well what do you do when you get sick?" And she goes, "I come to work sick." Like, most Americans don't understand this. We eat food all the time from people who are incentivized — that when they have the flu or something else — they are incentivized to come to work, because they don't have paid sick leave. So just understand that when you're going to eat.

CLAYTON: Oh my God, I never realized that.

BOOKER: If there are people in that kitchen who are sick, and they should be at home, but they know they can't miss a day. So she admits that. She goes, "what do you do when you get sick?". And she goes, "I can't afford to stop. I come to work." And Secretary Clinton, I could just see her getting more animated. You know, and um, the questioning persists. You know, "well, what do you do when your kids get sick?". And then I look at the server — you see this pain in her eyes — and then I look at Secretary Clinton, and I see anger in her eyes, and these two women suddenly start talking to each other, almost like, "you, back off." Let these two mothers have this conversation.

And so, our society, we preach often these things about how much we value children and how much we value parenthood, but we're the only nation of all the industrialized nations — Afghanistan and the Congo have paid family leave but the United States of America does not. And we devalue that — we pay zookeepers, not that that's not harder — but child care is something that's such an essential part but we devalue that and it seems that professions often that women are doing are devalued in terms of their pay as well.

So these are issues that I started waking up when I was a teenager or in my early twenties. Working on a hotline, hearing the raw testimony. Seeing—listening to how one comment, one word from a bunch of men standing there saying there something about a woman or harassing a woman with comments as they walk by can stick in somebody's mind for their entire day and be yet another one of those chips at your self worth. The same thing as a black boy growing up in America, in the 1980's, when often the only images before The Cosby Show came on, the only images of blackness that were on TV were J.J. from Good Times, or what have you. That my parents so worried that the collective not that anybody was — so my closest friends on this planet are still my friends that I grew up with. But they didn't [responding to audience member] Harrington Park, alright! — but they didn't have exposure to it. So I heard things like, "Well you're not like black people," you know, or just —

NIGATU: That's their fave.

CLAYTON: Yeah.

NIGATU: “You're not like the others!”

BOOKER: Or, yeah—

CLAYTON: “You're the exception!”

BOOKER: Yeah, and those things chip away at your self worth. And, and even having a niece now, I still remember playing with my niece when she was younger — she's ten now — and the TV was on in the background, and suddenly I'm just listening to the bile on TV and saying to myself, "my niece is gonna have to grow up listening to this, that her self-worth is now going to be measured by her waistline, or the shape of her hips or lips or hair." All these kind of things make me realize how much farther we have to go as a society until we start to deal with what I think, so many people who are different — women or people of color — are trying to deal with just in building your own self-worth, your armament, uh, in a world that devalues you—

CLAYTON: And this is why we don't have many men on our show.

[laughter]

NIGATU: Yes, listen.

CLAYTON: Senator Booker, you have been a joy and a delight and a fantastic sport. We have pages and pages of questions but unfortunately we are out of time.

Heben Nigatu and Tracy Clayton cover everything from race, gender and pop culture to squirrels, mangoes, and bad jokes, all in one boozy podcast.

Contact Another Round at julia.furlan+anotherround@buzzfeed.com.

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